2021 – Another year!

2021 was an interesting and overall good year for us and the house, especially the inside!

Our house as of February 2021.

First, our construction efforts had to fit around some other events in our lives in general. We are grateful to live in a town and a state that has taken Covid seriously; we were able to get vaccinated and “boosted” and have stayed well. Susan had her second hip replaced in early May, with recovery (and lots of physical therapy) extending into the fall, but is now in great shape. Tim’s sister in North Carolina passed away unexpectedly in mid-May, so Tim made several trips to North Carolina and has spent many hours being the person in charge of settling her affairs. In addition, this year he had extra work as a Lister for our town. Tim rowed his single during the summer, but competed less than in other years. Susan continued her local activities regarding climate change, as well as playing recorder.

Meanwhile, despite everything, we (mostly Tim!) accomplished several major projects on the house. The 3-season porch got it’s floor. To get ready to construct the “real” stairs to the second floor, we first had to “finish” the downstairs master bedroom, bathroom and closet. Then we had to move downstairs so Tim could replace the “construction” stairs with the real ones. Then he constructed the “real” stairs, a project that took weeks with many interesting problems to solve. And right before Christmas we installed the flooring on the second floor.

What follows is more detail on on each of these projects. Remember that you can double-click on any photo to see it larger and with the caption below it. We’ll start with the bathroom, designed to have a curb-less roll-in shower. First, Tim had to construct the floor of the shower, since the drain had to be lower than the rest of the floor. Then various layers had to go on the floors and walls for waterproofing and to support the tiles, and for the heated floor.

We are enjoying the fanciest bathroom we have ever had! (Note, the toilet is out of sight on the lower right of the photo.)

Another big project was laying the flooring for the bedroom, closet, and hallway. We had several kinds of wood flooring we had picked up over the last few years, so Tim made a beautiful border.

Once we were all moved downstairs, it was time to tackle the stairs! This has been a complex project that took weeks before we could use the stairs at all.

Once we could use the stairs, and we had a few days before driving to Michigan for Christmas, we decided to blow it out and install the bamboo flooring on the 2nd floor.

Of course it took longer than we had thought, but we got it all done before leaving. When we got back home after a wonderful visit with our daughter and son-in-law, we decided to go ahead with the sheet rocking and painting still to do upstairs. And Tim is continuing to stay busy with many details on the stairs and stairwell.

There are many aspects of the stairs and 2nd floor to finish. Among them, Tim is working on newel posts for the top and bottom of the stairs, and then our near neighbor who is a blacksmith will make wrought iron ballisters that we will install with railings. More painting on the second floor, plus a thorough cleaning, and then we can rearrange all our stuff and bring some furniture (like a real desk and book cases!) from our storage unit.

Also, last spring Tim put down the flooring (polyurethaned oak-faced plywood) on the 3-season porch, and we really enjoyed it in all 3 seasons! The sun warmed it enough to sit out there even when when there was still snow on the ground outside! Photo on the left.

Of course we also had the usual activities and weather through the year. A good vegetable garden, lots of flowers, and a beautiful fall and first snowfalls.

Every day we are so grateful to be here! Our house is keeping us warm and sheltered even through recent sub zero temperatures. We have many wonderful friends here. We are happy!


2020: An “interesting” year!

Well, I guess this blog is turning into an annual report!

The year started off beautifully, with snow and blue skies. Then collecting maple sap and boiling it into syrup (March).

In the winter, Tim started a weekly class with a local renowned fine woodworker and made good progress on a blanket chest with curved corners. Susan played with her recorder ensemble every week, and duets with a friend.

Then came the pandemic. And, of course, lots of classes, social gatherings etc. that we have enjoyed in the past ended. Not going to get into politics here — this blog is primarily about the house…

So, that meant it was a good time to get down to work on some serious house projects! Tim’s big “quarantine” project was to construct the stairs from the first floor down to the basement, somewhat complicated with lots of problem-solving, so it took a whole month. Here are some “in progress” photos. Wonderful to have stairs instead of a ladder! Eventually, after building similar stairs to the second floor (which will be even more compex), both flights will be carpeted.

Meanwhile, Susan made masks and we started wearing them, spring flowers started blooming, we started vegetable seeds for the garden, and our cat Shasha enjoyed warm sun in the window.

As the weather improved, Tim worked on outdoor projects. He constructed a roof over the basement door, made some finishing touches on trim on the 3-season porch as well as insulating the ceiling, short walls below the windows and floor. He also installed the big triangular windows in the gable end, quite a feat (but no good photos!). When spring comes we’ll be ready install the finished floor, walls and ceiling boards.

Meanwhile we planted the vegetable garden (white floating row covers discourage various insect pests), and lots of flowers bloomed throughout the summer.

We bought a trailer, so Tim was able to haul a bunch of logs (well, cut trees!) that had been out by the woods, cut and spit them to fill the woodshed for winter. This fall he constructed a roof for the trailer, so it would not just fill up with snow all winter. It came in handy for our first real snow of the year, 14 inches a few days ago!

Meanwhile we enjoyed lots of vegetables, and a bumper year for black currants and wild blackberries and raspberries.

Our last big project of the year was finishing the 8-foot wide ‘alcove’ with the wood stove. I have to say, that while I had some input regarding tile choice and design, Tim did all the work! We are really enjoying the look of the tile, and Tim has put many hours in to finish the odd joints of dry-wall (see left side of first photo) which took many layers of mudding and sanding. Of course, we had to disconnect and move the stove to install the tile, which was a strong incentive to get it done before cold weather! The square of wood in the first photo is what the rest of the flooring will be. If you look carefully at the lower right photo, you will see how Tim has scribed and custom cut the back sides of the trim boards (not yet finished) to fit the irregularities of the wall and the post.

Upcoming projects include tiling the master bathroom (we have picked out tiles!), finishing drywall installation and mudding/taping and sanding the joints in various parts of the house. Also on the “list”, putting down flooring upstairs and down, and constructing stairs to the second floor…

Tim has kept up with his work as a Lister for the town, and spent 3 weeks with his ill sister in North Carolina this fall. He got back in time to quarantine before Susan had a hip replacement at the end of October; she is recovering well, and looking forward to much more gardening next spring!

It looks like we have survived 2020! And we really had a good year, despite everything. Wishing all of you the best 2021!

Another year!

As usual, hard to believe that so much time has passed and I am only now updating this blog!

It has been a good and busy year; we have made some progress on the house, but not as picture-worthy as previous years. In the mean time, Tim and I have been enjoying our lives in this wonderful community!

Solar panels!  When it snows, we have to “rake” off the snow (with what is called a roof rake). Even during short days (like now), we make a good amount of electricity, and in summer we make way more than we use. And a few weeks ago we had 2 Tesla Power Wall batteries installed in the basement. We are on the grid, and the batteries are great back-up for power outages. We are now about net zero for electricity in our all electric house (though we still have gas-powered vehicles for now).  These photos are from last January:

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In February, we started putting up some sheet rock, and later we rented a lift for putting it up on the ceilings. Of course, we first had to plan every ceiling light fixture, etc., and on some ceilings fitting the sheet rock between beams was challenging.  We are not finished yet, and haven’t really started mudding the seams, because some other projects came up.

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Around this time (once some sheet rock was up in the mud/laundry room) we splurged on a washer and drier! The drier is not only high efficiency, but is a heat pump drier, so no vent to the outside. It is really nice to do laundry at home.

Getting into mud season, we enjoyed Cabin Fever University again (local folks do various presentations and workshops — travelogs, basket-making, etc.), and the season ended with a terrific rock-n-roll dance party, for which I made a cake (the woman who started CFU was Eva):

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And a few weeks later, we had visits from a porcupine (above).

Around this time our local Strafford Energy Committee had a tour of efficient houses, and we were one of the three houses! Lots of fun showing off our house, and Tim did a great job of explaining the technical details.

The snow was pretty much gone by mid-April, and we had the snow peas planted a few days later (covered with newspaper in the photo). The straw bales were pretty much done for, so Tim dug the rotted straw into the beds and in the process hauled out three, 300-pound boulders.

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Well, we thought snow was over, but no! Lots of spring flowers were already blooming when this came on May 15, giving snow hats to the hyacinths! Happily it melted fast, and spring really got going after that. On the left of the right-hand photo below you can see the wood shed is pretty empty…

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In between getting the vegetable garden under way, Tim collected wood to split for next year’s woodpile, and he figured out how to frame a closet in the mud room against the plastered straw bale wall with no studs for attaching the frame! Then he sheet rocked behind our makeshift closet upstairs and constructed a much better framework for us. (Before, the shelves etc. were attached directly to the studs, now covered with sheet rock.)

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By early July we were enjoying lots of flowers, and the vegetable garden was coming right along.

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We had a beautiful hanging basket this summer, and by the end of July the vegetable garden was going crazy!

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The big project this fall was insulating the basement, to meet Efficiency Vermont requirements. Last spring Tim had obtained many sheets of rigid foam insulation, seconds, at a great price. (These were stacked high on the 3-season porch, so we didn’t get that finished this year.) He had to figure out how to attach studs to the very hard cement walls of the basement, and have them end several inches above the floor. Then fit the rigid insulation between the studs, and then finish with sheet rock. And he had to do this behind the water heater and Heat Retention Ventilator and other items, and take down his wood rack and put it back up again, and move lots of other stuff to get at the walls.  Whew! He finished before the deadline this fall! This work took a lot of time, and Susan really couldn’t help much.  And a monarch butterfly came to visit….

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By mid September our line of sugar maples was turning color, and I made of bouquet of end-of-the-season flowers.

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By early October the trees were really starting to turn, beautiful around our house (left) and nearby (right). The brightest colored trees are usually the red maples; sugar maples are not as spectacular.  In the right hand photo is a lovely timber-framed cow shed (not quite finished yet!) that was made when the national timber-framers association had their annual conference here in Strafford.

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We had a prolific garden this year! Didn’t take tons of photos, but had lots of tomatoes, beans, potatoes, cucumbers, summer & zucchini squashes, kale, chard, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and winter squash. We enjoyed these fresh, and had plenty to fill the freezer, can some pickles, etc.  After the first “light” frost in early October, we picked our bumper crop of butternut and delicata squashes, and by early November all the colored leaves were down and the larch trees were turning golden, including the one at the top of our driveway.

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We have had ups and downs of temperature this fall and some November snow that all melted, but it is settling into real winter now, with a few inches of snow on the ground and a low of zero last night.  Our house is cozy and we enjoy a fire in the wood stove in the evenings (especially the cold ones!).


This was the mid-November snow, and you can see we got our wood shed pretty filled up! The other roofed woodpile, to the right, is wood for sugaring this coming February.

In between everything else, we have been active in the community and following our interests. Tim kept up an impressive rowing schedule spring through fall, with frequent races on the weekends. While he didn’t win any event, his finishes were better than last year and he is happy! In addition, he has spent many hours in his work as a Lister for our town. (Listers keep the “grand list” of properties and their values, used for computing taxes.)  Susan has kept up her music, continuing to play recorders with a near-by ensemble, plus playing duets with another Strafford recorder player (we are loving Telemann and Bach!), and occasionally performing for a wonderful 95-year-old friend!  Susan has been active regarding Climate Change, attending several events in VT and active in the Two Rivers Action Coalition, an area climate action group. At the end of the summer Susan became the “moderator” for our local Strafford Climate Action Group, which has organized several events and will be working to support proposed VT legislation to decrease carbon emissions here. One event was our local participation in Climate Strike Friday in September (about 100 people participated!) and at least a few of us are still on the corner every Friday 7:15-8:30 AM. Here we are in front of Barrett Hall in South Strafford, where lots of folks drive by on the way to the school, or to the Interstate:


And in November Susan had fun making another “green” gingerbread house for the raffle fund-raiser for our wonderful local public library, with solar panels on the roof and chickens in the yard!

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So, that is a very brief overview of our year with our house. We took a couple of short trips out of town, and enjoyed a visit from our son Ethan. Even though the house is not finished inside, we have loved having friends over (no one up here has any problem with “unfinished” when it comes to houses!).   We are happy!

In the coming year house-building priorities will be to finish the sheet rocking, finish the 3-season porch, tile the front hall and behind and under the wood stove, and build the stairs to the basement. We’ll see what we get done!

Xmas letter pic 2019

We are hoping you all have a wonderful holiday season, and all the best in the New Year!

Winter Came Early!

As usual, I can’t believe how fast the time has passed, and it has been almost 4 months since I last posted! Oh my! So, lots to catch up on.

Once we finished with the big plastering project (see last post), we put board and batten up on one side of the basement wall (left below), so we are almost done with exterior finishing (around the corner is waiting for a roof over the door).  Our next project was putting bead board up on the ceiling of the south side (right, below). Tim cut, I did all the polyurethaning, and together we installed it. As usual, he was on the ladder and I handed him boards, tools, etc. We are so happy with the result!

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By early October, the trees were turning colors, Tim was still rowing, and we took a day off to go visit the Shelburne Museum — a glorious day and a great place to visit if you get to Vermont some time! (See the unique round barn there at lower left.) And we harvested a bumper crop of butternut squash!

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In preparation for winter, we got more “hard pack” spread on the driveway and lane, and prepared to construct a carport! It was a bit tricky to set the 9 posts square and vertical, but critical for avoiding problems later in the process…

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Despite much cold, wet weather, Tim made a lot of progress by mid-November — rafters and purlins done:

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Then we went away with friends for a week (a wonderful “do-nothing” vacation!). While we were away, winter came, with snow! Very early even for here. (And the deer came and ate everything green above the snow in the vegetable garden — several big plants of kale and the rest of the brussels sprouts, stems and all. Live and learn…) We finally had a couple of sunny days, so Tim cleared snow off the carport rafters (below left) and we shoveled out the space beneath. The next day was sunny and “warm” (well, a high of 34 degrees); we worked all day and got all the metal roof panels and the top roof vent installed — whew!

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Tim made a “stop” to clamp onto the ends of rafters, which kept each metal roof panel from sliding off while he screwed it in place (you can see one of the clamps and the stop below left). We made a “story stick” (the thin white stick on the panel below) marked with the purlin spacing so I could mark on the metal panels where Tim would place each screw so it would go into a purlin, not into air! LOTS of screws.

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We got half done in the morning, and finished by dinner time using head lamps. And just in time, as more snow came in the next day! In the snow picture below you can just see the car port roof to the left beyond the camp building, keeping the snow off the vehicles (yay!). And, of course, we did not make any electricity that day — the solar panels on the left are covered with snow. But on most days we are making a good amount and should be net zero over the course of the year.

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Other events of interest this fall…  I “moderated” a candidates forum focused on carbon issues in Vermont, organized by our local “Two Rivers Action Coalition” (TRAC) in which I am active. Tim rowed the last head race of the season on the last Saturday of October (in the 30’s and pouring rain!) and continued as a Lister for the town.  I made a gingerbread house for the Library Raffle (see the end of the blog), that had solar panels and a hoop house in the garden! Lots of fun!

Our beautiful 1799 Town House needed repairs to the steeple, and I thought you’d enjoy some pictures of the process. After a lot of fund-raising and grant-writing, the repairs were done this fall. First, the steeple was prepared with some scaffolding for workers to stand on during the process. Then a huge crane was brought in, along with several expert timber-framers, and the steeple was lifted off and set on a prepared base next to the building, while lots of us came to watch! Here are some photos:

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On the ground (below left), you can see timbers arranged to support the structure from underneath while repairs were made. The timber framers were fascinated to see the work of their counterparts from over 200 years ago! Also, you can see that the “windows” are not real windows, just painted black with white strips of wood for the muntins. This was typical for churches/town houses of this nature at the time. There are also a clock and a bell, but they are below the steeple. Local timber framers had constructed a temporary roof, placed on top while the crane was still there.

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During the next several months (in between bouts of inclement weather) significant repairs were made, the weathervane refurbished, and Mike Hebb, a local wood-turner, made new wooden balls for the top (actually part of the structure). Amazing to think that the steeple originally was constructed in place, without a crane! The steeple was finally replaced just last week, but I don’t have a photo yet.

Our next big house projects are constructing the stairs and putting drywall on ceilings and internal walls downstairs, both of which we can work on during this winter. Tim has spent many hours figuring out exactly how to design the stairs, a bit challenging given that we didn’t know everything before we designed the timber frame, etc. He also calculated how much drywall we need, and last week it was delivered. Happily, the truck had a boom lift expertly operated by Shane (with cool joy-sticks on his belt) that brought the load close to the front door, so Tim and Shane were able to carry each pair of sheets inside relatively easily (I only had to mind the door). So now the southeast corner of our living room is full of drywall. Guess that will keep reminding us to get the work done!

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We have had full snow cover since the week before Thanksgiving, so it really looks like winter.  We have already had a few nights at zero or single digit temperatures, but our house and our wood stove have continued to perform wonderfully, so we are snug. Now we are getting ready for Christmas. And here are some pictures of the “green” gingerbread house:

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Wishing each of you a wonderful holiday season!


Whew! What a summer!

It has been a busy summer! So much to catch up on!

Soon after I last posted (late April), we drove to Michigan for daughter Riva’s PhD graduation! So proud!

After we got home, in early May, we had solar panels installed just north of the driveway, and later planted grass next to them, and today it looks like this!

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We are making more than the expected amount of electricity, and these panels should bring us close to net zero for our electricity (though we do not yet have a washer or drier, or electric car!).

Meanwhile, spring flowers were coming up, and we were starting vegetables etc. for the garden, and enlarging our vegetable garden. Also working on the 3-season porch on the west side of the house (more pictures later on). And Tim has been rowing again, and I have continued recorder-playing, among other things.

And, we decided to hire the plastering team who did the initial plastering on the bales to do the finish plastering. We had initially thought that Tim and I would do this plastering, but that was definitely wishful thinking! We would have had a tremendous learning curve, and it would have taken us “forever.” In any case, we still had a lot of preparation work, a lot more than we had initially imagined!  The plastering team could come during the first week of August. Before they arrived, we had to plan, make, finish and install ALL the wood trim (around windows, the window seats, and baseboards)!  And we had to move “everything” back from the walls to make room for scaffolding etc., and we had to tape and paper all of the timber frame and wood trim to protect it from plaster “spatter”. And on top of that, I made a long-ago planned wedding cake for a friend’s daughter for the Saturday before the plastering began! But during July and August we also enjoyed all the flowers in the garden, especially the many beautiful day lilies we have.

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All the houseplants had to go to “summer camp” on the porch (which they loved!). Sasha our cat went to “summer camp” at the Vet’s for the duration (she did not like that so much, but was very happy to get home again). Tim made trim from our own lumber, and stained just the baseboards and window seats to roughly match the color of the timber frame. I did most of the polyurethaning (3 coats).  The window seat edges had to be scribed and sawn to fit the unique curve of each window opening. On the right is the first window trim and window seat, installed by mid-July.

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Below on the left is an example of the “taping and papering.” I wrapped all the braces (the plaster had to go behind them), and we taped paper over the baseboards and put tape where the plaster would run into the timber frame. The plaster is clay-lime, and the lime while wet is somewhat corrosive and will stain the wood. We got all our stuff moved out of the way and tarped. Our wonderful friends Sherry and Peter had us sleep at their house throughout the plastering. And we kept discovering more tasks… On the right is Tim installing some wood trim so the plaster would not be right up against the sheet rock ceiling.  Also, once the plastering team arrived, we learned that we had to add plastic in a bunch of places… The team brought the same big blue mixing machine they call “Dan Marino,” and made many big tub-fulls of plaster, this time just with clay and lime sand, no manure.

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We also decided to put some slate tiles (left over from the house in Athens) on the bathroom window sills. Tim was laying this tile in the downstairs bathroom while the plastering team was well underway on the second floor (the tiles still have to be grouted; the little blue things are spacers). Amazing to see the plastering team apply the plaster above the windows! and on all the curves!

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Many of the windows also had to be covered with opaque paper to prevent direct sunlight on the plaster, which would dry it too fast and unevenly. A lot of the tape was removed as they worked, but for a week after the plastering was applied, we had to mist the plaster walls with water so it would cure slowly, which meant all the paper had to remain in place.  On the left below is part of downstairs, plastered, where we also papered the posts as well as the braces. The middle photo shows the west bedroom window and the finished window seat with bead board “apron”. And, finally, on August 17, we could take all the paper down! On the right is the north wall upstairs, now light and beautiful!  We are very happy with the results!

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While we are still cleaning up the floors etc., we were also trying to keep up with the garden produce.  We also sat down and made a long list of “next steps” for the house, things like ceilings, sheet rock on interior walls, flooring, etc.

We also got right to work on the 3-season porch on the west side of the house — the windows had arrived a couple of weeks before the plasterers and we had to wait to install them. Tim had made the basic structure of the porch last fall, and the metal roof was put on after first snow.  Last spring he worked on it some more, constructing the knee walls etc. Next we needed to finish the clapboards around the roof. Tim made a complex cut-out clapboard to fit around the roof edge, and a ladder-like thing so he could (safely) perch on the roof! (I stayed on the ground, and cut clapboard to length!)

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Next, he prepared the window openings with tapes etc.  A wonderful friend from nearby helped us manhandle the large windows into place.  They are sliders so they can be half screen or all glass. I was helping so did not get any photos of the action, but the windows are now in. Soon we’ll finish clapboards around the knee-walls, put in the door, build some steps, and finish the inside, but we can start enjoying sitting in it right away! Photo on the left is from May…

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Other adventures…  In the early summer we were visited by a bear! Didn’t see it, but it rummaged through our compost bin, tore down the hummingbird feeder, and bent the iron post it was on! We are pretty sure we have seen foot prints, too. So, we are being careful. Compost is going to the compost bin at the town recycling center until we get our worm composting system set up in the house. No bird feeders up. Ground floor windows closed at night. All is good!

We also have two big fat Monarch butterfly caterpillars on our little patch of milkweed!

And our expanded vegetable garden is keeping us busy — the plastering project kept us from mowing and weeding as much as we would have liked, though we did manage to freeze pounds of zucchini and summer squash and beans, and make about 8 jars of pesto (so far). We are enjoying bumper crops of squash and beans, kale and chard, and the tomatoes are coming in (we have 23 plants!), and Tim is getting ready to harvest potatoes soon.  We just have to keep ahead of things like tomato horn worms, rodents eating on the delicata squashes, and the occasional deer cropping the tops of tomato plants… And of course we are always enjoying the flower garden!

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The first few colored maple leaves are starting to show up, and the first wild purple asters are blooming, definite signs that Fall is on the way, despite some “Georgia” weather lately. We are continuing to enjoy our adventures here in Vermont!


The End of a Long Winter!

This has been a long winter with a late start to spring, and we are very happy to finally see the snow melting!  Regardless, we’ve still enjoyed ourselves and our community, and our house has performed perfectly (we stayed snug and warm). Tim has had plenty of work in his town position as a Lister, and besides music, and school volunteering, Susan taught a cake decorating class for Cabin Fever University.

We had plenty of snow, so our snow blower (and our shovels) got used a lot. In mid-February, with around 1 1/2 feet of snow cover on the ground, we had a bunch of trees removed — some dying hemlocks and some trees that were going to interfere with the solar array we’ll put up this spring. The loggers used chainsaws and also orange wedges (see in photo) to make the trees fall precisely where they wanted, and were able to drag the logs up to the “landing” to be taken away later this spring.

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Around this time Tim got started with sugaring!  The smoke etc. in the photo above is from the “arch” where Tim was cooking down the first collection of sap. He tapped 9 trees (the row of maples we see from our south window), and quit after he’d made nearly 4 gallons of great syrup, even though the sap was still running! It takes around 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup.  Below left is one of the taps; we collected sap in gallon jugs, and emptied them into a 5 gallon bucket until there was enough for a boil. The “arch” is the fireplace set-up for boiling sap — Tim made one with cinder blocks, stove pipe, and a second-hand boiling pan (about 18×42 inches). He had to feed the fire about every 20 minutes for about 8 hours to keep the sap boiling. He did 5 boils between mid February and early April, and finished off each batch on the kitchen stove, to get it to the correct sugar content, and then canned it. Looks pretty good!

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In February we had perfect snow for a snow man while my grand nephew was visiting (on spring break from Syracuse U)! And then we had another 14 inches of snow, some melting, and mud, and more snow, etc. The house photo was taken March 30, with the “board walk” to avoid some of the mud.

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In April (still snow on the ground!) the roofers came and put the standing seam roof on the 3-season porch — amazing — all done in less than 2 hours!


And then we had MORE snow! April 12 (on the left.)  With some slightly warmer weather we were happy to see a lot of it melted by April 21 (on the right).

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Preparations for installation of our solar array (to be put up sometime later this spring) included marking out the position along the north side of the driveway and delivery of the posts:


The last few days we’ve had sun and temperatures in the high 50’s (felt warmer in the sun), and then a day of gentle rain!  As of today the snow is almost all gone (except we still have the big piles next to the front porch). We have started our vegetable seedlings, and a couple of days ago cleaned up the garden and planted peas and spinach! And with the snow gone, here is next year’s firewood…

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So, spring is finally on its way, although an old-timer told me the other day that a number of years ago they had 11 inches of snow on Mother’s Day! But that is not stopping us from enjoying the first green shoots, and the first colts foot blossoms, and the bright red new leaves on the rhubarb plants.

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Happy Spring!







After a very busy end of fall, and the holidays, we’ve been somewhat hibernating! We had some snow in November, and snow cover since early December. Snow on Christmas Day, then some very cold weather, below zero and single digits, and then some thawing and ice in January which was warmer than average.  A few days ago we had 6 inches of snow, and it is snowing as I write this with 6-12 inches expected.  The house has performed very well, and we are staying warm and cozy!

The last outside project we worked on was the 3-season porch on the west side. Tim managed to get the roof sheathed (in process below left), and covered with tarps, before real snow (below right), but we did not get the standing seam roof on– that will have to wait for spring.

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While the ground was still clear, we had trees cleared from along the driveway where we will put up photo voltaic panels in the spring. When these are operational, we will be close to net zero for our electricity.

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With the first substantial snow we got to start using the new snow-blower for the first time! We still have to do some shoveling, especially around the vehicles (which we now park at the top of the driveway), but it’s not bad, and it is great to be in control of the snow clearing.


During November Jeff Solsaa, who did our insulating and installed the sheetrock ceiling upstairs, at our request came back with a friend and finished the mudding and sanding. We slept on the airbed downstairs, and had everything upstairs covered in plastic etc. They were working in between other jobs, in the evenings, and for various reasons it ended up taking almost a month. We were thrilled to move back upstairs just before Christmas! And after Christmas Tim painted the ceiling. (Before and after below.) Since then we have painted the vertical sheet rock wall on the south side a lovely light green.

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Additional interior improvements include a rug on our “living room” floor and our beloved sturdy coffee table, retrieved from the storage unit, and Tim put up lights (down lights on a cable) over the dining table:

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And, Tim built us a simple bed frame! We have been on a mattress on the floor since we arrived in Vermont, which has not been a problem, but SO NICE to be up off the floor!

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We enjoyed a peaceful and quiet Christmas Day, that included snow, phone calls, our favorite dinner, and an outing on our snow gliders. No photo, but a local friend invented them — narrower than snow shoes, much shorter and wider than cross country skiis, with some of the best attributes of both.

I’ve continued to enjoy playing my recorder, both lessons and ensemble, and with another friend. In December our ensemble performed at La Salette in Enfield, New Hampshire. Chris Rua, my teacher, is on the left with the giant contra bass recorder. (L to R: Chris, Deirdre, Peter, Thelma; me, Tracy)

Recorder ensemble

We’ve loved having friends over. Also, I get together with several other women to knit (Tuesday mornings at the post office!), one of whom will turn 96 later this month. I’m also enjoying volunteering with a grade 3-4 class at The Newton School, Strafford’s K-8 public school. Tim has been working a lot on organizing his basement workshop, quite a task!

I’ll finish with some of my favorite snow photos! I now understand why the Inuit have many words for snow — every snowfall is different. The flakes are different, sometimes lots of snow sticks to the trees, sometimes not, etc. The first photo is the view from our south windows, the second up the driveway on a beautiful sunny day! I always like the cobalt sky and the blue stripes of shadows across the snow when the sun is out…

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Until next time!

Stick Season and lots more progress!

What a busy fall!

We got trim boards painted right before the rented boom lift arrived (Oct. 4):

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First we got the south side as finished as we needed. We made “fake” board and batten above the clapboards  with plywood triangles and battens on top — much easier to accomplish than real boards and battens!  Tim can finish painting the clapboards from the roof platforms.


So we moved right on to the north side, which needed much more work to complete, including sofits (under the edge of the roof), battens, more clapboards, trim and the painted “fake” board and battens (all cut to angled lengths) at the top:

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And I did get up in the boom lift for some of this!


We worked from dawn till dark (and sometimes with headlamps) to get everything we needed to do accomplished while we had the boom lift for just 5 days. Below, finishing up the north side (L) and the south side finally complete a bit later (R) Yay!:

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Right after the boom lift, my sister Ellen and brother-in-law John visited for 9 wonderful days!  We did some fun things, including some sight-seeing, plus they and our son Ethan, who also visited, helped with several tasks. One was moving the shelter tent (and all the lumber supplies within) to the northeast corner of the house. We were happy that we could just pick it up at the corners and walk it over, did not have to dismantle it first. This means we have a nicer view out the east windows and should avoid the kind of snow problems we had last year.


Meanwhile, Tim started working on the beginnings of the 3-season porch on the west side. First he dug holes for the footings — some 2 feet by 2 feet by 5 feet deep! He used sonotubes, here one of the biggest. The tubes had to be carefully placed in the correct (and vertical) position, with soil filled in around them. Then Tim had to mix lots of concrete; a friend loaned us a powered mixer which helped a lot!  The last photo shows a finished footing. A bolt embedded in the concrete eventually attaches to a metal fastener that holds the post above it in place.

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When the posts were anchored and attached to the rim joist (against the house), the floor joists could be put in:

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Next, Tim prepared the posts and beams (note the carefully notched ends), which went together perfectly when we put them up!

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Finally, we were able to put up the rafters and ridgepole.  Then we had to rig some covering with rain and snow coming…

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We have already gotten a bit further than I have photos —  will show you more next time!

Another big event this fall was that Tim rowed in a men’s 8 in the Head of the Charles on Oct. 21! We drove down to Boston and had a great day! While Tim’s boat did not “win”, they rowed very well! I watched from the Weeks Bridge, and could easily pick out Tim in his red jacket, here rowing to the start!


Now we are in the short dark days, “stick season” before snow comes to lighten things up.  We’ve had a few snow flurries, and recently some nights in the teens.  But here are some remembrances of fall in October — the last red maple leaves, tiny birds nest fungi (in November), and the view from our front door:

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We continue to be very happy here, and wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Autumn, and progress

As usual, time has flown by, and I’m finally sitting down to update this blog!

The weather has been a bit weird — a cool and somewhat rainy August, then hot (for here!) and dry most of September. And then the last two nights were suddenly in the 30’s, enough frost to do in the basil and the squash vines in the garden. But now at least it actually feels like fall!

Since I last wrote, we finished painting the north side, completed the west side, and have done most of what we can on the south side above the roof.  A brief review of the process: First you put up furring strips, venting material around windows, trim around the windows, then clapboards — one at a time, nailed on every foot. A lot must be cut to size, sometimes dry-fitted, etc. and carefully spaced and level. Put them up from the bottom up, then paint (actually opaque stain) from the top down.  And there are also soffit vents under the eaves and finally the frieze board (the trim at the top of the clapboards). Whew!

Here is the west wall complete as high as we could go (and scaffolding taken down), as of 8/1:


Then we put up the scaffolding on the west wall (around the corner to the right in the photo above) and started work on that. (The red things on the poles are pump jacks, so you can raise and lower the platform.) In 10 days we had gotten this far:


The “triangle” on the right outlines where the roof will be for the 3-season porch we will build out from the house. We’ll leave out those clapboards next to the roof till the roof is constructed as the layers of roofing and the clapboards have to go on in a certain order.  For working on this side we moved the chop saw to the southwest corner and put up our pavilion tent over it — I appreciated the shade when the sun was out, and it made keeping things dry easier!  As usual, Tim gave me measures, I cut clapboards to length as needed, started the nails in each end, and handed them up; he did the up high work.

In mid August I went off to Early Music Week at Pinewoods Music Camp in Massachusetts, where I played my recorders, had wonderful classes, and learned English Country Dancing!  I learned a lot and had a fabulous time! While I was gone, Tim covered the Roxul around the foundation with lathe and special cement — he worked hard! The cement will protect the Roxul from weathering. The picture below shows part of the wall next to the basement walk-out.


And then we continued working on the west wall. Here is Tim working up in the gable. Luckily he can work in tight spaces! Note the jacket and hat. This was September 1, and it was unusually cool, and the first red maple leaves were coming down.

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By 9/18 we had the west wall almost complete! When done, we removed the platforms from the scaffolding.


Next we started on the south wall above the roof. Our first challenge was setting up the platform on the roof. Tim made wedge-shaped supports so the platform would be level, with pieces of non-slip shelf liner underneath to prevent slipping.  First we managed to get the frames for the platforms up on the roof (I pushed each up a ladder on the lower side of the roof till Tim could grab hold and carry it up to the supports).  Below (as of 9/19) you can see the wedges and the frames in place, and the decking pieces on the left ready to attach:


Tim is able to climb up this ladder to get to the platform, and then I carried up all the furring strips and all the clapboards. Happily, we have gotten pretty good at measuring and cutting so we did not have dry fit any clapboards, which greatly reduced the time it took and meant many fewer trips up the ladder for me! (The bucket you see only worked for small stuff, tools, etc.)


Putting up the first few courses of clapboards was challenging and really hard on Tim’s knees and back!


By 9/27 we had clapboards up about as far as we can go. This went pretty fast, considering that it was so hot (in the 80’s, record highs for us here) that we didn’t work from about 11 till 3 or so most days:


Now we are about ready to paint this wall (will I manage to get up on that roof??). But, with good weather predicted, we have a rented a boom lift for 5 days next week. The rest of the building materials will be delivered today, then we will prime and paint like crazy. Once the boom lift is here, we will get right to work to finish the highest parts of the north and south sides, including soffits (under the eaves) and trim. Yippee!!!  (We can finish this painting later.) And then we can start constructing the porch…  :~)  Tim has spent quite a lot of time planning the porch, figuring out snow loads and other issues in order to design it correctly.

All this time, Tim has continued rising very early to row 5 morning a week, and has been competing in some head races. We are excited that he will be in his club’s first (ie “best”) men’s 8 competing in the Head of the Charles race in Boston in October! (I don’t get up as early as Tim, but often practice my recorder music while he is gone.)

A special treat in August/September was seeing Monarch butterflies!  We had a caterpillar on a milkweed plant growing next to the sunflowers, and it made a chrysalis! The beautiful green chrysalis got very dark, and we checked it frequently, and saw it soon after the butterfly emerged! This particular Monarch had a slightly deformed wing (probably related to the black spot you can see on the chrysalis beyond it in the photo below), so we recognized it at our flowers a week later! Another Monarch visited me while cutting clapboards, perching on my hand, my arm, my tool bag, etc. while I was working — how cool and how beautiful!

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We have continued to enjoy flowers blooming, and our vegetable garden has been quite prolific.  We are happy to have a good freezer, but have also canned pickles and applesauce. The tomatoes especially have appreciated the hot sunny September, and we are eating lots of them! This photo is from 8/23. The beans and cucumbers are finished, but we have been harvesting lots of squash and tons of tomatoes!


Below is from 9/20, what we see from the southeast corner of the house. You can see leaves changing (and fallen!), the late blooming perennials in the “bank” garden, and our full wood shed! (The building in the background is the “camp,” now garden shed, that we built in 2008, and the the curvy pipe on the right of the garden is the vent from the septic system — someday to be painted a more camouflage color!)


And here are some of our last flowers — a painted lady butterfly on a tithonia blossom, and wild asters which the bees love (can you spot the bee below?) — a sure sign of fall!

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We remain very happy, enjoying ourselves and appreciating the great friends we have made here! Until next time…

Clapboards on the north side!

After a cool and damp June and early July, we have finally made real progress on the clapboards! We are also enjoying the summer and our gardens are looking great!

On June 22 we started to work on the north wall of the house.  First we had to install the “water table”, with furring strips behind it. Flashing on top of that, and the corner boards on the corner. In the photo below the wide kind of limp board is the water table, and Tim already attached the two corner boards at right angles. They are even longer than they look here — the corner boards go from the first floor all the way up to the roof, all in one unit.


And here they are in place on the house! A little tricky to manage the very long boards, but we did it!


Then we had to put up lots more furring strips.  We knew we wanted to be very precise with the spacing (every foot) so we would not have to trim every clapboard to size, and Tim was also careful to put them up plum.


Next we had to erect the scaffolding, and then start putting up clapboards!  This photo was taken on July 4. We worked really well on the clapboards — we could use the 6 foot boards (only had to cut to size at the east end).  I started the nails on the two ends and Tim put them up; they get nailed by hand every foot (into the furring strips). The only tricky part was getting them nailed up behind the two compressors!



Because all the clapboards are not perfectly straight (especially the 6-footers), Tim checked every one for level as he was nailing them up.

Tim added the window trim, and we put up the rest of the scaffolding, and more clapboards.


Tim did the highest up work, and I climbed up one ladder or another to hand him boards and tools as needed…


By 7/23 we had clapboarded as high as Tim could safely go and the limits of the scaffolding. Exciting!


Next, we started painting (the grey of the clapboards is the primer). It is tricky to get the bottom edges of the boards completely covered.  I even got up on the scaffolding to paint (but no photo!). Anyway, but the end of yesterday, it was almost done:


Tim finished the painting this afternoon, and tomorrow, with good weather forecast, we will move the scaffolding to the west side and get started with the furring strips etc. Great to have made so much progress!

Meanwhile, we are enjoying snow peas, sugar snap peas, swiss chard and kale from the garden, and we have picked the first early tomatoes this week! Cucumbers, beans and squashes are on the way! Here is the garden as of 7/20. The newspaper is covering newly planted sugarsnap and snow peas. The red is the stems of red chard.


But, because of all the rain in June, we have been battling slugs in the garden — hundreds of slugs! We have been picking them off (and drowning them in salt water) morning and night, hundreds per day at first, 50 to 100 per day now or fewer when it is dry. All sizes, orange, brown and grey, and a few snails thrown in. They especially like new sprouts, so some things we planted directly in the bails we’ve had to replant. We are also using slug bait and slug traps, but they are not very effective.  However, overall, we are winning, I think! And most recently we’ve been catching mice that were digging up our newly planted pea seeds.  Oh well!

And we are enjoying lots of wildflowers, especially black-eyed Susans and Queen Anne’s Lace, plus gorgeous different daylilies coming out each day, and our sunflowers. Here are a few:

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Hope you are enjoying the summer! Until next time…